Final surgery?

Yesterday’s surgery to remove the other lymph nodes in the left side of my neck went very well. Dr. Wilson told Sherry that they all looked fine. That means there’s probably no active cancer but does not rule out the presence of some cells as there was on the sentinel node which was removed back in November. He kept me overnight as a precaution (I like cautious doctors!). Surprisingly I slept well in the hospital. They only woke me once to do vitals and it was time for a potty trip anyway. After a very good breakfast, I was discharged at 9:00 this morning. Home is a good place to be! I’ve been laying low today with a long afternoon nap as the biggest event of the day. Pain is minimal but I have major meds if it kicks up. No hero spirit in me. No responsibilities for the weekend by design. Then classes start Monday with getting the drain out of my neck as the most anticipated event of that day!

I am praying for a clean pathology report in my Friday post-op with Dr. Wilson. Then I will be able to say, “there is no know cancer in my body.” Regular observation will follow of course.

Sherry and I deeply appreciate the huge number of people who are praying and supporting in many ways/.

Melanoma

The mole on the side of my forehead had been there a long time. Back in August, I had Dr. Ben take a look. He sent me to Dr. Martin who removed it in a quick office visit at the end of September, just before Sherry’s aortic valve replacement surgery on October 9. Of course she sent it to pathology and they found melanoma. It was just a hair thicker than they liked so she sent me to Dr. Wilson, an ENT physician for surgery to remove more tissue around the spot where the mole was and to take out a lymph node and the parotid gland (no, I don’t know what that’s good for) on November 11. I went back to see him after 10 days and the preliminary pathology report was clear. Though he was a bit frustrated that the final was not in yet, he was not concerned. “I’ll give you a call if anything shows up.” The call came about 10 days later: there is a “micro-presence” which is to say they found a microscopic focus of tumor on the capsule of the node. But with melanoma, zero is the only right answer. So I will have another surgery on January 7 to remove the other lymph nodes in my neck. This is preventive, for local control of the cancer.

Dr. Da Graca, my oncologist comes highly recommended from friends who are oncology nurses, so I have a lot of confidence in him. Because it moved from the original location, I have stage 3 melanoma. But it is low risk since there was no enlargement of the lymph node and only a focused cluster of cells.

For researchers who want to help out: The possibilities are participation in a clinical trial, observation or interferon. Ipilimumab was recently approved clinical trial for high risk stage 3 melanoma. He notes that both interferon and ipilimumab are relatively difficult to tolerate and don’t help with survivability. He did recommend checking on pembrolizumab, the “Jimmy Carter” drug. It is a very new medication which is a good option. The “problem” is mine is not “high risk” so I wouldn’t qualify for a clinical trial. There will be another assessment after the January 7 surgery.

Last week I had five classes. In all of them there was focused prayer for healing which I deeply appreciate. In one, Evan Wickham had a prophetic picture of one of the lymph nodes sucking up all the cancer cells just before the January 7 removal. I found myself speaking strong rejection of cancer in the name of Jesus.

At this point I am completely symptom free so life goes on pretty normally.

The hard part has been telling people who love me and seeing the shock. All my responsibility and helper stuff kicks in, of course. The hardest is Sherry who is recovering from her heart surgery nicely. She’s a trooper and super supportive as we journey through this place with the prayers of friends all over the world.